Alternatives to milk boom as consumers turn to vegan diet
Dairy farmers dismiss threat to Irish milk amid changing habits
Sales of plant-based milks have soared in the last year amid the increasing popularity of vegan diets.
New data shows a 40pc increase in the amount of plant-based milk sold in Irish supermarkets in January, when compared to the same period last year.
The increase was fuelled by the rise of 'Veganuary' - where people choose to go on a vegan diet for the first month of the year.
Almond, soy and oat milks are among the varieties that have become popular.
Kantar Worldpanel, the market research firm that compiled the data, said in January that Irish consumers were trying to be healthy after the Christmas excess.
The figures cover the four weeks to January 27 this year compared with the same period in 2018.
"After an indulgent festive period, many Irish shoppers started the year with good intentions and January sales of fruit and vegetables were up €7m year on year," said Kantar's consumer insight director Douglas Faughnan.
"Vegetable side dishes and vegetarian sausages and burgers collectively rose by 35pc and, amid the rising popularity of 'Veganuary', sales of plant-based milks were 40pc higher than in January 2018."
Despite the rise, sales of plant-based milks are still dwarfed by the traditional dairy market.
Pat McCormack, chair of dairy farmers group the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association, said he didn't think the plant alternatives would pose a threat to his members.
"I don't want to be disrespectful to these new foods and products - in return I'd ask that the same courtesy is shown to traditional dairy and beef - but the fact of the matter is that cow's milk has been an integral part of the human diet for millennia.
"We have numberless generations of Irish people whose lives were intimately bound up with the production of, and consumption of, cow milk," Mr McCormack told the Irish Independent.
"I'd be confident that Ireland's tradition of excellent milk production will be able to deal with the challenge."
The data on plant-based milk was included in Kantar's latest update on Ireland's supermarket wars.
Dunnes Stores maintained its position as Ireland's top grocer by market share, with 23.1pc of the market. Tesco was second with 22.1pc and SuperValu had 21.6pc.
Continuing to stand out, however, were the German discounters Lidl and Aldi.
"Both retailers achieved record market share over Christmas and that strong performance has continued into the new year - Aldi increased sales by 10pc and Lidl by 5.2pc," said Mr Faughnan.